2016 Pro Wrestling Awards

2016 Pro Wrestling Awards

It’s the last of our FGB Awards for the year – check out our 2016 Pro Wrestling Awards.

Here are the categories:

Most Outstanding Wrestler
Show of the Year
Match of the Year
Breakout Star
Big Things in 2016

Participating in the awards are Duan, Alan, Don, Alex Goff, and GG.

Most Outstanding Wrestler

Duan: AJ Styles
Patience paid off for Styles. He waited until it was on his terms to sign with WWE – debuted as a top guy and has stayed there ever since. He closes out his first year in the big leagues as champion and has become the most reliable big show performer in the company.

Duan’s previous winners:
2015: Jay Lethal
2014: Seth Rollins
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: John Cena
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Jeff Hardy

Alan: Kazuchika Okada
Overlooked in most awards ballots I’m seeing and the only reason I can think of is because he’s a boring pick. But he is THE pick for me. Having studied every year of The Rainmaker’s career intently, this was his best. It was his most well-rounded, his most composed and in many ways his most important. With such key departures at the start of the year, New Japan needed new faces to step up. And they got that with the likes of Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito really taking full advantage of the opportunity. But even more important than new faces in the mix, was having a rock of stability to build around. Kazuchika Okada was that rock. His title feuds with Naito and Naomichi Marufuji were huge at different points of the year, and his G1 efforts were outstanding right the way through. Icing on the cake were his performances in tags throughout the year. He never phoned it in and always delivered hot action.

Alan’s previous winners:
2015: Yuji Okabayashi
2014: Tomohiro Ishii
2013: Kazuchika Okada
2012: Kazuchika Okada
2011: Daisuke Sekimoto and Akira Tozawa
2010: Chris Hero
2009: KENTA
2008: Shingo Takagi

Don: AJ Styles
This one was tough, as AJ Styles was great coming into the WWE and just continued his streak. Kevin Owens is the “longest reigning Universal Champion” of all time, with all of his matches being extremely watchable. His interviews and characterizations in the ring show how much confidence he has these days. Bobby Lashley is a bad-ass with a great look, presence, and legitimacy. He won all the titles in TNA because he wanted them, gave great interviews, and was a great force in the ring. He is a great TNA champ. Samoa Joe was back to his old dominant self, being a two-time NXT champ, with it being laughable that he’s still in NXT… at least at the time of writing this.

AJ Styles can be thrown into any situation as a heel or face, and talks/wrestles like a champ. He had great matches with John Cena and Dean Ambrose… his main two competitors since being the second round draft pick of Smackdown. With such fluid matches, he’s the best worker since Daniel Bryan retired, making his opponents look great.

Alex: AJ Styles
AJ was my favorite wrestler in high school and I never thought he would climb this high. He has a claim to being the best wrestler in the business by consistently having the best WWE matches.

Alex’s previous winners:
2015: Jay Lethal
2014: AJ Styles

GG: AJ Styles
AJ is my first repeat winner since Chris Jericho in 2009 (though, I did choose Daniel Bryan in both 2010 and 2013). I think AJ’s greatest accomplishment is not getting squashed by the WWE machine. I think most hoped and begged that he’d be booked correctly but the fear was that he’d be booked terribly at first because of how WWE treats newcomers from other companies. But, save for losing to Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, Styles was booked very well. And in that time, he’s become the company’s featured wrestler and champion. It’s pretty phenomenal if you think about it.

GG’s previous winners:
2015: AJ Styles
2014: Adrian Neville
2013: Daniel Bryan
2012: CM Punk
2011: Dolph Ziggler
2010: Daniel Bryan
2009: Chris Jericho
2008: Chris Jericho

Show of the Year

Duan: Progress Brixton
Progress has delivered the most consistently fun shows of any indy group this past year. September’s card in the O2 Academy Brixton, was a landmark night both for the promotion and for the broader British scene. Big matches, the culmination of storylines, surprise returns and a final farewell to the WWE bound Tomasso Ciampa, Tommy End and Jack Gallagher.

Duan’s previous winners:
2015: Ultimo Lucha
2014: Payback
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TLC
2011: Money In The Bank
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Judgment Day
2008: Wrestlemania 24

Alan: Wrestle Kingdom 10
It set a bar that wasn’t matched. Honestly, it was probably going to be impossible to match. It had the spectacle, the atmosphere, the matches and the moments. The last three matches of Ishii vs Shibata, Nakamura vs Styles and Okada vs Tanahashi was as good a trilogy as there’s ever been on a single show.

Alan’s previous winners:
2015: Wrestle Kingdom 9
2014: NJPW G1 Climax Day 7
2013: NJPW G1 Climax Day 4
2012: NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling
2011: PWG DDT4
2010: PWG Seven
2009: PWG Threemendous 2
2008: ROH Supercard Of Honor 3

Don: NXT TakeOver: Dallas
I did not see many great shows this year, as there was no standout WWE or TNA show. NXT Takeover: Dallas, held before WrestleMania, was special for the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, as he wrestled Sami Zayn. I was mesmerized by this match along with the crowd reactions. The show had a great tag match between American Alpha and The Revival, and a damning main event with Samoa Joe against defending champion Finn Balor. Joe was bloodied in this match, which had to be continuously stopped while his blood was cleaned up by ringside doctors, enraging Joe.

Alex: NXT TakeOver: Dallas
Running a show on the same weekend as WrestleMania isn’t easy. WrestleMania, with its production value, will likely leave many to forget what else happened that weekend. NXT TakeOver: Dallas took on the challenge and hit a homerun. The title matches were all epic and Zayn/Nakamura gave the fans that weekend an instant classic.

Alex’s previous winners:
2015: WrestleMania 31
2014: SummerSlam

GG: Wrestle Kingdom 10
WWE’s best shows were NXT shows this year, which isn’t to take away from those shows. It just means that no WWE show really had that big show appeal until Survivor Series. WrestleMania 32 was awesome live, but not as watchable on television because it was without a classic match. To me, the only show that felt big was Wrestle Kingdom 10. I stayed up to watch it live and while I was quite a bit tired going into the last few matches, I got a second wind and was glad for it. That was a fun night/morning.

GG’s previous winners:
2015: Wrestle Kingdom 9 and WrestleMania 31
2014: SummerSlam
2013: SummerSlam
2012: TNA Destination X
2011: Elimination Chamber
2010: WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Backlash
2008: Wrestlemania 24

Match of the Year

Duan: The Revival vs DIY – NXT TakeOver: Toronto
Ciampa and Gargano have been my favourite act of this year. They were two guys who were brought in with minimum push and still made things work. Their two matches with Revival were as good as anything we’ve seen from the tag division in a long time. I give the nod just slightly to the two out of three falls title change in Toronto.

Duan’s previous winners:
2015: John Cena Vs Seth Rollins Vs Brock Lesnar – Royal Rumble
2014: John Cena vs Cesaro – February 17, 2014 Raw
2013: Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk – SummerSlam
2012: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania 28
2011: Triple H vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVII
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho – The Bash

Alan: Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 10
It was the final chapter of the greatest rivalry of modern times. This was the bout where Okada finally and definitively took Tanahashi’s spot at the top of the New Japan mountain. The visual of Okada holding onto Tana’s wrist and refusing to let go before delivering the show ending Rainmaker was probably the best piece of symbolism I’ve ever seen in wrestling.

Alan’s previous winners:
2015: Shingo Takagi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki – Dragon Gate “Gate Of Destiny”
2014: Masato Yoshino Vs Masaaki Mochizuki – January 16, 2014 and The Jimmys Vs The Millennials – September 23, 2014
2013: Kota Ibushi vs Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax Day 4
2012: Kazuchika Okada vs Tetsuya Naito – NJPW 40th Anniversary Show
2011: Shingo Takagi vs BxB Hulk – Dragon Gate: Pro Wrestling Festival In Kobe
2010: Susumu Yokosuka vs Shingo Takagi – Dragon Gate in Nottingham
2009: 2 Skinny Black Guys vs The Young Buck$ – PWG Threemendous 2
2008: Kenta Kobashi, KENTA, Akihiko Ito, & Atsushi Aoki vs. Kensuke Sasaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kento Miyahara, & Takashi Okita

Don: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn – NXT TakeOver: Dallas
I haven’t been as impressed as others with Shinsuke Nakamura and his forgetting to sell near the end of matches, but this match was great. The atmosphere, the crowd going crazy, the way he and Sami Zayn didn’t back down… it was the most fun I had watching a match this year.

Alex: The Revival vs DIY – NXT TakeOver: Toronto
This match was classic tag team wrestling in an era where you don’t get it this good. This put Johnny Gargano on the map to WWE Network viewers as someone to watch, and this match is something going out of your way to watch a few times.

Alex’s previous winners:
2015: Sasha Banks Vs Bayley – NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
2014: AJ Styles Vs Matt Sydal – November 10, 2014

GG: Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – Wrestle Kingdom 10
Because of our different taste in wrestling (and really, because Alan is a better wrestling fan than I am), it’s rare that we’re going to be the exact same on some of these. But this year, we’re right in step with two awards. I don’t usually give out stars, but if I’m remembering correctly, Okada and Tanahashi is the only match I thought was 5 stars all year long.

GG’s previous winners:
2015: Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 9
2014: Adrian Neville vs Sami Zayn vs Tyler Breeze vs Tyson Kidd – NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way
2013: Daniel Bryan vs John Cena – SummerSlam
2012: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena – Extreme Rules
2011: CM Punk vs John Cena – Money In The Bank
2010: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXVI
2009: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker – WrestleMania XXV
2008: Chris Jericho vs Shawn Michaels – No Mercy

Breakout Star

Duan: Rich Swann
For the WWE to get behind the cruiserweight division, it was always going to take more than just small guys having good matches. They needed somebody with a story and personality they could build around who would also deliver in ring. They have that guy in Rich Swann. It just took them a little while to realize it.

Duan’s previous winners:
2015: Kevin Owens
2014: Adrian Neville

Alan: Matt Riddle
BRO! The progression of Matt Riddle through 2016 was ridiculous. His month-to-month improvement was beyond what anyone was expecting from the former UFC fighter. He’s clearly a natural and was given many opportunities to face some of the best on the scene. He stepped up to every opportunity he got and he ends the year as such a big name that it’s facing Matt Riddle that’s now seen as an opportunity for others. His PROGRESS debut at the end of November was incredible and he’s set to explode in Europe during the early months of the New Year.

Alan’s previous winners:
2015: Will Ospreay
2014: AJ Styles

Don: Broken Matt Hardy
He may be in his early 40s, but “Broken” Matt Hardy was one of the main reasons to watch TNA. With the awesome battle against Brother Nero in Final Deletion, he made the Hardys relevant again. With “Obsolete” Brother Nero, son Maxel, wife Reby, Vanguard 1, the dilapidated boat Skarsgård, Senor Benjamin, losing his memory then regaining it after being struck by lightning… c’mon now! Matt Hardy was one of the most entertaining things in all of wrestling in 2016. DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!

Alex: The Revival
The Revival easily surpassed American Alpha as providers of real excitement in the NXT tag division. Their matches and feuds provided interest in a division that looked like it was going to lose luster. Calls to have this team on the main roster have grown louder and it will likely disappoint because WWE hasn’t figured out how to properly display tag wrestling. Maybe they can break the mold.

Alex’s previous winners:
2015: Samoa Joe
2014: Seth Rollins

GG: Jeff Cobb
Last year, I had Cobb as the one guy I was predicting big things for in this very awards section. I remember talking to my buddy John LaRocca a couple of years back, asking him when Cobb would be in PWG. We both thought he should’ve been there already. I guess 2016 was the year. Cobb became one of the biggest indy stars. There’s also a rumor that he knows the monster Matanza in Lucha Underground and has been giving him some tips (while also staying out of range to be eaten). I can happily say that I was very early on the Jeff Cobb bandwagon and am proud of it.

GG’s previous winners:
2015: Timothy Thatcher
2014: The Usos

Big Things In 2017

Duan: Pete Dunne
Dunne is already a better, more well-rounded performer than the two guys everyone is talking about from the UK scene. He was always going to end up in WWE anyway. The introduction of the UK championship just sped up the process. He’s been collecting titles this year and he will go into January’s tournament as favourite to pick up another one.

Duan’s previous winners:
2015: Chad Gable
2014: Finn Balor
2013: Seth Rollins
2012: Bray Wyatt
2011: Justin Gabriel
2010: Dolph Ziggler

Alan: Takuya Nomura
I say this with no fear of jinxing. Takuya Nomura will be the best wrestler in the world. This kid is unreal. He’s the definition of babyfaced assassin with striking skills and intensity which make him a super intriguing match-up for his seniors on the Big Japan roster. Having just won Samurai TV’s “Best Newcomer” award (he debuted in the spring), Nomura is poised to get more and more opportunities in 2017. The fight he brought to monsters like Shuji Ishikawa and Kohei Sato shows that Takuya has the burning spirit that has defined so many Japanese wrestling legends. Unquestionably, the most exciting young wrestler in the world.

Alan’s previous winners:
2015: El Lindaman
2014: Big R Shimizu
2013: Kalisto
2012: Dean Ambrose and Yuji Okabayashi
2011: Manabu Soya and Takumi Soya
2010: Tetsuya Naito

Don: American Alpha
This is a tough one. Impact Wrestling has men like Moose, “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, and Eli “Dummy! Yeah!” Drake who may be going places as the company continues its spiral. But man are they entertaining to watch. I don’t see any emerging/big things for single wrestlers in the WWE/NXT other than men like Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura who are deserving of big matches in WWE, but are mired in the “minors”. The cruiserweights in WWE aren’t going to get much attention with most of the fanbase, as entertaining as they are to watch. I’d like to see someone like Cesaro get a big push, but he’s too bland on the mic for it to ever happen.

American Alpha (Chad Gable/Jason Jordan) have become the forgotten tag team on Smackdown. They were one of the most entertaining teams to watch in NXT but haven’t been given the chance to shine in the Smackdown tag team division. Hopefully some teams such as The Revival, or DIY are brought up to give American Alpha a good team to feud with. Chad Gable is a future star on this side of Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho, and should be headed to the World Title picture in a few years. Jason Jordan has improved greatly over the past few years, and can be a multi-time IC or US Champ.

Alex: Lio Rush
He’s doing interesting things in CZW and once he finds his footing in ROH, he could provide a good bridge to the future of the company.

Alex’s previous winners:
2015: Non-WWE wrestling
2014: Charlotte

GG: Karl Fredericks
I’ve only seen Karl a few times out here in the Bay Area on the indy scene, but he’s got a lot of the things that I imagine WWE looks for in a wrestler. He’s got the look, is a good athlete, and is constantly improving every time I see him. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should go out of your way to check him out.

GG’s previous winners:
2015: Jeff Cobb
2014: Rusev
2013: Big E. Langston
2012: Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett
2011: Brodus Clay
2010: Dolph Ziggler

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